A free read of Map of Seventeen

I’ve posted my Nebula nominated story “Map of Seventeen” on my website for interested readers.  You can find it on the page tabs overhead.  I’ll take it down soon after the Nebulas, around the end of May, but here it is for a limited time for free.  If you like it, please drop me a note.  And get the anthology it was originally published in, The Beastly Bride (a theme the story centers around).  It’s a great collection of stories altogether.

Another piece of the map

For those of you who may have read the vignettes in Map for a Forgotten Valley that I published last month, another piece of that map has recently been published by Muse, a Cleveland magazine.  You can read the whole issue of Muse by visiting their website and downloading the pdf of the issue.  Along with my story, “The B&O, Crossroads of Time and Space,” the poet Nin Andrews has interviewed me for the issue as well.

Here’s a link to Muse.

And here’s a direct link to Muse 12 JAN11.

Thanks for reading!

Fall Recap

The end of autumn.  It’s been a busy semester.  The student group I advise has created an awesome new online literary magazine called “jenny”.  I posted about this a little over a month ago, and now the site is live.  We had a launch party with over a hundred people in attendance at Dorian Books on the Northside this past week, and presented the site and held excerpt readings from those writers in the issue who were local or who traveled to be at the launch.  It was an awesome evening, and the magazine has been well-received so far.  We’ve received a lot of support in the local community and people from other states and even countries (!) have sent us email saying how much they like the magazine.  We have probably a 75/25 ratio of local or regional writers to writers from the wider world in this issue, and hope to bring it to a 50/50 balance as we continue to produce more issues.  One of the main goals in the magazine is to bridge the local with the global, if possible.  I keep hearing that we live in a global world–it’s all over the internet and in magazines and newspapers, right?  But I also keep hearing this call for local cultures to be lived in, embraced, encouraged, from buying locally grown food to growing a local literary culture.  Jenny will hopefully serve to be a bifocal lens, through which we can see the local and the global in one place.  Do take a look at the first issue.  It’s really beautifully designed and I think we’re going to just keep getting better.  You can read it at www.jennymag.org.  For those readers of my blog who love SF, at least three or four of the stories in this issue should ring some of your bells.

Otherwise, my fall was busy for reasons beyond launching a new magazine.  Classes, classes, and more classes.  Lots of local events to attend and support.  I remember a time in my life not long ago when I had buckets of free time to sit within and dream for hours, but that seems like another life to me right now.  I’m looking forward to the winter break to rejuvenate and replenish my well.

I was also busy, though, because I did some rewriting on the novel I’d finished a first draft of this past summer, and I started writing a new one not long after.  A young adult novel.  I’m three chapters in and really having so much fun with it.  Not going to say much about what it’s about, though, until I get further in.  Mum’s the word for now.

Soon my Map for a Forgotten Valley series of flash nonfiction or meditations or vignettes (I’m not sure what to call them) will be published by the New Haven Review and Muse (in December, I believe), so I’ll be popping back in here to point you in the right direction soon.

Last week of classes this week.  I’m pumped for the holiday break, but I’ll also, as always, be sad to not see some of these people I’ve spent the last fifteen weeks with as often or possibly ever again.  It’s weird, being a teacher, getting close to people quickly, lots of people, and then saying goodbye to the majority of them four months later.  And then, a month after that, starting up that same process all over again.

Introducing “jenny”

“jenny” is something my students in the Literary Arts Association at YSU have been busily preparing as a new online literary magazine.  This is a radically energetic and creative group of students, and I’m really proud to be working with them as they put together something new and electric like this.  Please take a look at the site preview.  The debut party will be on November 24th at 7PM at Dorian Books in Youngstown, OH.  Details on the front page of the “jenny” magazine site itself.  If you’re around the area, please join us.  And if you’re not, please give the magazine a read when it debuts and consider sending your own work in the meantime!

–Chris

Dear Friends,

Youngstown State University’s Student Literary Arts Association is proud to invite you to submit work to our new online literary magazine: Jenny.

Allow us a moment to explain the title of our venture.

Like many struggling postindustrial cities across the country, Youngstown, Ohio is a place defined by images of ruin and rust, and there are few images more striking than that of the Jeannette Blast Furnace. “Jenny,” as plant workers called her and as Bruce Springsteen referred to her in his 1995 song “Youngstown,” was one of two furnaces located at Youngstown Sheet and Tube. It was a place where things were made, shaped, created.

The blast furnace was shut down in the late 1970s and was demolished in 1996. Steel was one of many industries that left this region built on manufacturing in the last four decades of our history. While the absence of our blast furnaces has been felt in terrible ways throughout our region, our fire has not gone out. In the aftermath of de-industrialization, we are not a people without industry. Youngstown is not done creating, not done making. We are each of us, every day, telling stories. Here in the pages of Jenny, we aim to display some of those artifacts made by wordsmiths and visual artists alike.

Jenny will publish short fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, and interviews with artists and writers. We hope to bring together writers and artists both from the local region as well as the wider world, connecting our stories with yours, yours with ours here in America’s heartland and America’s rustbelt. Submissions do not have to be set in Youngstown, or in rustbelt or postindustrial settings at all, though we do encourage writing and art that speaks to that experience.

Jenny will appear twice a year, in late fall and spring. We will be publishing 5-7 pieces of fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry per issue. We ask that prose not exceed 7,000 words (preferably 5000 or under), and that poetry submissions not exceed 5 pages (or 5 poems).

Each issue will also include a featured artist. If you are interested in being a featured artist, please contact us with a proposed series of images or photographs.

Along with writing and art, we will also feature interviews with authors and artists, and podcasts of selected stories and poems.

Please direct all submissions and questions to ysujenny@gmail.com. Please submit all work as an attachment in .doc or .rtf format. Deadline for the Fall issue is October 29th. If your submission arrives after that, we will consider it for our Spring issue, the deadline for which is April 2nd.

We look forward to your contributions.

Sincerely,

YSU SLAA (Student Literary Arts Association)

Older eyes

My last class for my MFA program at Chatham starts tomorrow. It’s a Multi-Genre Creative Writing Workshop, which means the participants can submit things from any genre, poetry, fiction, nonfiction, plays, etc, for the workshop to consider. There’s me and one other fiction writer in the class, one nonfiction writer, and three poets, I believe. Along with submitting a piece weekly for the next twelve weeks, and critiquing each others stuff, there are a few books we’re reading to discuss along the way. One of them is Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast. Have you read it? I did about fourteen years ago, when I was twenty, in an undergraduate course called Cafe Circles, where we studied the American Modernists living in Paris. Stein, Hemingway, Porter. I forget some of the other ones now. But mainly Hemingway and Stein. Anyway, I loved that book then, but I can’t remember why. I just have always had a good lasting impression of it. I started reading it again tonight and got through the first four chapters like wildfire. It really is good, but what my twenty year old self couldn’t see that I can now is exactly why. The loving details, the beautiful rhythms of the prose, the amazing dialogue that is so real and yet so obviously constructed, artificial, at the same time. There’s a real heartbeat beneath those words. I’m glad to be rereading them again, with eyes that recognize a few things that they didn’t when I was twenty.

Reality Hunger

I’m reading David Shields’ new book, Reality Hunger: A Manifesto.  It’s a really engaging nonlinear, non narrative, at times lyrical essay, always structured by way of collage or mosaic, appropriating snippets of ideas from other writers, thinkers, poets, and philosophers and critics, arranging in a mash-up style, voices layered over one another without attribution (until the last pages of the book, by compulsion of Shields’ publisher), that approaches the American need–no, hunger–for reality at this point in our history, when it’s evident to most people how constructed our lives are, how posed and self-conscious, positioned, where the boundaries between fiction and nonfiction are fairly thin, and perhaps better for it, when we understand that traditional point A to point B narrative doesn’t suit our understanding or experience of the story of living any longer.  It’s a compelling read, and I wanted to blog about it here a little bit to perhaps start a conversation with anyone else who has read it or is reading it.

An excerpt from the NYT book review:

The flood of memoirs of the last couple of decades represents an uprising against such repression. So why have there been so many phony memoirs? Because of false consciousness, as Marxists would put it. Shields (echoing Alice Marshall) is disappointed in James Frey not because he lied in his book, but because when he appeared on Oprah Winfrey’s show he didn’t say: “Everyone who writes about himself is a liar. I created a person meaner, funnier, more filled with life than I could ever be.” After all, just because the novel is food for worms doesn’t mean that fiction has ceased. Only an artificial dualism would treat every non-novel as if it were reportage or court testimony, and only a fear of the slipperiness of life could perpetuate the cult of the back story. “Anything processed by memory is fiction,” as is any memory shaped into literature.

But we continue to crave reality, because we live in a time dominated by innumerable forms of extraliterary fiction: politics, advertising, the lives of celebrities, the apparatus surrounding professional sports — you could say without exaggeration that everything on TV is fiction whether it is packaged as such or not. So what constitutes reality, then, as it affects culture? It can be as simple as a glitch, an interruption, a dropped beat, a foreign object that suddenly intrudes. Hence the potency of sampling in popular music, which forces open the space between the vocal and instrumental components. It is also a form of collage, which edits, alters and reapportions cultural commodities according to need or desire. Reality is a landscape that includes unreal features; being true to reality involves a certain amount of wavering between real and unreal. Likewise originality, if there can ever be any such thing, will inevitably entail a quantity of borrowing, conscious and otherwise. The paradoxes pile up as thick as the debris of history — unsurprisingly, since that debris is our reality.

You can read the whole review by clicking here.

I can’t wait to finish it, but had to stop in here to cast a bottle into the ether about it.  I’d say this is a book that really approaches the idea of interstitial culture, art, writing, experience.

YA before YA was cool

Last week the famous J.D. Salinger passed away, which lead to an internet riot of people either mourning–some respectfully, some deeply–or people taking pot shots at Salinger and his most famous character, Holden Caulfield. The funny thing is, most of the people commenting on the book really don’t know anything about how the book was received, its context, and why it was a hallmark book, and why perhaps it is disliked by so many contemporary readers.  (My own theory is that many books that are taught in schools are going to be disliked, because a certain amount of students are going to dislike reading anything they are forced to read.) But over at Collen Lindsay’s blog, The Swivet, you can read a guest post by my friend Richard Bowes, who was a young adult at the time Catcher in the Rye was released.  It’s an insightful post for anyone interested in Salinger, Holden Caulfield, the 1950s in America, and YA literature in general.

A sample:

Does this make Catcher in the Rye great literature? No. But when it came out it was unique, a novel read mainly by young people, some of them very young at a time when YA as a category didn’t exist. There were only adult novels and a substratum of novels for children and very young teens.

By the time Salinger finally produced Franny and Zooey and got on the cover of Time Magazine, two other novels that also appealed to the young – Lord of the Flies (1954) and A Separate Peace (1959) – had started to get mentioned along with Catcher.

Like The Catcher in the Rye, these novels weren’t written for adolescents; they were discovered by them.

Read the whole thing by clicking here.

When we are like Anne

“Despite everything, I believe people are good at heart.”

I’m so glad Anne Frank could believe this.  It’s a testament to her own goodness.  It is not a testament to human nature itself, though.  It tells us more about Anne than it does about ourselves.

I don’t believe it.  I don’t attribute my disbelief to my own goodness, but to what I have seen of humanity, including what was going on around Anne, after the fact, and would like to say, You know what?  People are still very eager to do away with other people who are not like them.

Anne, you are a beautiful star.

But people? In general?  They are not.

When we are exceptional, when we see those unlike us as ourselves, despite our differences, THEN we are as beautiful as Anne.

When we are unable to do that?  We are ugly, inhumane, and disturbing.

I speak about this in relationship to the writing of fiction.  Is it worthwhile to speak of that which is good about us?

It is.

But there is a stronger push against, a resistance, to writers who speak about our ugliness, that which is disgusting in human nature.  And the more we resist it, the more I wish to represent our ugliness.

It should not be forgotten.

It should be the thing about which we are most uncomfortable.

It should be the thing we talk about more than anything.

Until we have done away with it.

Then, let us speak of our goodness, as Anne would.  But when our goodness has been won, an earned virtue.

Okay, we can speak  of our goodness, which we would not want to lose.

But not at the expense of acknowledging that which comprises our darkness.

Otherwise, we are living within an ideal, what we would like to think about ourselves, not about reality.

And even when we write fantasy, we should be speaking to reality.  The reality of the story.

Otherwise, we are making ourselves feel good about ourselves without reason.

Earn it.

That’s all.

Earn it.